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Herbed Leg of Lamb

Recipes come into being in strange ways. The fabulous Brazilian pit master and chef, André Lima de Luca, told me about a way he had for slow-cooking a shoulder of pork with (among many other ingredients) oregano, rosemary, orange and lemon. The thought and flavours percolated at the back of my mind for a while – and then I tried cooking a leg of lamb with them last Easter.

It’s relaxingly simple to make: a quick blitz with a stick blender, and you have an upliftingly fragrant, gloriously green paste which you coat the lamb with before roasting and, once cooked, gives a soft, fresh-flavoured crust.

The timing below is based on your cooking a 2kg leg for 20 minutes per 500g plus 20 minutes, which will give you medium, that’s to say, pink lamb; if you want well-cooked lamb, then give
it 30 minutes per 500g plus 30 minutes. However, ovens do vary, and it’s wise to use a temperature probe. I resisted for a long time, but now I get my probe out at every possible opportunity. But I don’t cook the meat to the temperature that I want it to be (for pink lamb, that would be 60oC; for well done, 71oC) because I find that the meat carries on cooking as it rests, and I’m always nervous of overcooking it. If you want your meat well-done, then this isn’t going to be a worry, but for pink meat I suggest that you take the lamb out when it reads 55oC, and rest it, covered loosely in foil out of a draught for 15–30 minutes, testing with your probe to make sure you don’t carve it until it’s as you want it. But keep an eye, so it doesn’t go over, either.

You don’t exactly get a gravy out of the liquid at the bottom of the tin (the water stops the tin from burning and keeps the meat gorgeously tender) but taste it once the lamb’s rested, to see if you want to add a little freshly boiled water, and possibly a drop or two of honey, to give you some juices to pour over the carved meat.
If it’s old-school gravy you’re after, then I refer you to the orangey and lemony Cumberland Gravy on p.166.

Ingredients (servies 6–8)

  • Leg of lamb – approx. 2kg
  • Oregano – leaves from a small (approx. 15g) bunch
  • Rosemary – 1 x 15ml tablespoon needles
  • Garlic – 4 fat cloves, peeled and halved
  • Lemon – 1, finely grated zest and 2 x 15ml tablespoons of juice
  • Orange – 1, nely grated zest and 2 x 15ml tablespoons of juice
  • Regular olive oil – 2 x 15ml tablespoons
  • Sea salt flakes – 2 teaspoons

Method

  1. Sit the lamb in a roasting tin, skin-side up, and make many plunging incisions all over the skin side with the tip of a sharp knife.
  2. With a stick blender, blitz the oregano, rosemary, garlic, lemon and orange zests and juices, olive oil and sea salt flakes to a herb-flecked runny paste. Pour or spoon this over the lamb and use your fingers to help get it into the meat where you’ve made your incisions. A lot of the paste will run off down into the tin: rub this into the sides, where the meat is exposed, and spoon over the top on the skin. Leave for 45 minutes or so until the lamb is at room temperature. Preheat the oven to 180oC/160oC Fan.
  3. Pour enough just-boiled water to come up about 1⁄2cm in the tin, and roast for 1 hour 40 minutes, though take a look at it after an hour or so to make sure that the water hasn’t evaporated (if it has, add more) and the top isn’t burning – if it is, cover loosely with foil – though it should, by the end of its cooking time, be darkened in places. I have never found it to burn in my oven, but some ovens are fiercer than others.
  4. Before the time is quite up, remove from the oven and put your probe in, if you have one (see recipe introduction for notes and numbers). Otherwise pierce with a knife and peek in.
  5. Remove the cooked lamb from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let rest for 15–30 minutes, checking on it every now and again, before transferring to a board to carve.